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Bacteria hitting hundreds of thousands of olive trees in Italy

A hostile bacteria, seen in Europe for the first time, is destroying centuries-old olive trees and threatening supplies of Italian oil.

The microbe, first identified in the Americas, has now infected 800,000 trees in Salento, the southern half of Puglia, the heel of Italy.

Many of Italy's oldest specimens, some 500 years old, have been infected by the bacteria, named Xylella fastidiosa.

The species causes plants to dry out, leaving shrivelled stumps that are incapable of bearing fruit.

The epidemic has already cost producers €250m (£200m) - a figure expected to rise.

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Monday, August 18, 2014